Guwahati: The 8th International Conference and Gathering of Elders concluded on Wednesday at Dibrugarh in northeast India with the graceful presence of Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh’s Sarkaryavah Dattatreya Hosabale, Arunachal Pradesh chief minister Pema Khandu and other dignitaries. The conference, which provided a platform for diverse cultures to converge, emphasising the importance of preserving ancient traditions, ecological sustainability, and collaborative governance, also adopted a resolution named ‘Dibrugarh Declaration’ with a three-point agenda namely reviving traditions, ecological knowledge and collaborative governance.
Addressing valedictory function of the four-day conference, organised by International Center for Cultural Studies (ICCS) with the theme of shared sustainable prosperity, top RSS leader Hosabale commented that sustainable development can be ensured only through sustainable consumption. Prosperity has to be shared equitably. Earning and distribution have been the core philosophy in every society which is governed by such ancient wisdom, pointed out by Hosabale, adding that the spirituality is soul of our culture and tradition and all cultures have commonalities.
“The ancient traditions are the only ones on Earth to have recognized feminine divinity. Also, these traditions emphasise family values and sustainable living in a common way of life. Reviving tradition, ecological knowledge and collaborative governance are very much required for shared sustainable prosperity,” said Hosabale, adding that this movement of global indigenous ancient traditions is flourishing now. Highlighting on the conference theme he opined that the prosperity should be sustained for a long time and prosperity must not happen at the cost of Mother Earth’s exploitation.
Hosabale gave an example from the take of Samudra Manthan, where Lakshmi, that is prosperity, came out of it after a lot of churning. Thus churning is required for prosperity. Conch (shankha) is the brother of prosperity. Blowing of the conch was particularly done while performing pujas. Our ancient elders communicated in a very gentle way through stories conveying this message to us that prosperity should be sustainable and equitable. The presence of divinity is seen in every being. The planet provides to everyone sufficiently. Now, it is our responsibility to preserve this divinity, he added.
Sarkaryavah emphasised three follow-up action points for the conference. Firstly, indigenous tradition and culture are not meant to be preserved in decorative museums like antiques. Ancient wisdom and belief systems are continuous living traditions on Earth. Nevertheless, these should be in the mainstream and not to be marginalised. Secondly, indigenous cultures have been experimenting for thousands of years on individual and societal lifestyles, thus it is for sure that these are the only ways to save our planet. Thirdly, capacity building is required for each community for fine tuning progress and materialistic development.
Khandu, while congratulating the ICCS for choosing this theme, expressed hope that the adopted declaration will help create a harmonious society as India readies to show the way forward. He argued that Arunachal has 26 tribes and they have lived in harmony for centuries. Our age-old traditions shape our lives and give us identity. They are the living encyclopaedias of Arunachal Pradesh, added the young chief minister. The saffron leader declared that preservation and promotion of indigenous culture remains the policy of Arunachal government.
Talking about the newly inaugurated Itanagar’s greenfield airport, Khandu mentioned that it is named ‘Donyi Polo Airport’ respecting the indigenous tradition. In Arunachal, Donyi means Mother Sun and Polo means Moon God as per the local indigenous belief, stated Khandu, adding that the government has established three Gurukuls to preserve the indigenous tribal traditions. The youth festival for indigenous people has been organized every year. He also informed that Arunachal has already received GI tags for 12 products and applications for 16 more such products are also being given.
Arunachal Pradesh deputy chief minister Chowna Mein, while claiming that the north-eastern region has preserved the cultural traditions for a long time, stated that the State government has increased the budget for development as well as for the preservation of cultural traditions. Localizing school curriculum, digitizing folklore & folksongs, and reviving the system of tribal priests are the major themes of the government. He admitted that the indigenous peoples have preserved ecology and environment for everyone.
Valedictory ceremony of the conference, which was attended by 125 foreign delegates from 33 countries representing their ancient traditional wisdom, began with an auspicious prayer by one Yezidi elder glorifying Earth, Sun, Moon, Ocean, Birds, etc. Shashi Bala, president of ICCS, Bharat chapter, felicitated the guests and other dignitaries. Earlier on the inaugural day (28 January 2024), a picturesque public rally was organised on the streets of Dibrugarh with various diverse traditions. Academic seminars, workshops and cultural programs with their faith demonstrations were also organized during the conference.